78 Comments

Summary:

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is now a known quantity, thanks to details from Amazon executives. The Android-based tablet has an attractive price, but to get there, it cut so many corners it probably won’t make much of a dent in Apple’s market lead.

amazon-kindle-fire-feature

Credit: Amazon.com

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is now a known quantity, thanks to details supplied to Bloomberg ahead of the official announcement at Amazon’s press event Wednesday. The Android-based tablet has an attractive price, but to get there, it cut so many corners it probably won’t make much of a dent in Apple’s market lead with the iPad.

The Kindle Fire has a 7-inch display, no camera and no microphone. It can only connect to a Wi-Fi network, and there’s no built-in 3G connection. It also only carries 8 GB of on-board memory, with no options for memory expansion. These barebones features enabled Amazon to reach the Fire’s low price point of $199, while the Barnes & Noble Nook Color costs $249, and the iPad begins at $499.

Amazon’s goal with this device is clearly to offer something cheap that provides enough features and functionality to appeal to the general public. The company also hopes that Amazon’s ecosystem of digital goods can help it bring in customers; it provides video on demand, e-book and music sales, and it can store much of that content in the cloud.

The problem is that Amazon hasn’t really unveiled much with the Fire besides a fairly basic delivery method for sales of its digital offerings. Limited storage means Amazon’s cloud services are almost a necessity for buyers, and yet the lack of 3G means that accessing content when you’re away from home will be difficult. The lack of both camera and microphone also mean that people can’t easily use this for taking or sharing mobile photos, or as a phone replacement with VoIP apps.

The new Silk browser tech that does much of the processing work on Amazon’s EC2 servers is also interesting, but again severely limited by the Wi-Fi-only network access. Amazon also didn’t talk about battery life, and a decision not to talk about it could mean it doesn’t compare favorably to the iPad’s all-day power.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talked a lot about early skepticism in the media about the original Kindle’s chances at success at today’s press conference — skepticism that didn’t end up coming true. But the Fire is entering a different market on different terms. Bezos also noted that Amazon has a strong ecosystem, and that’s been a large part of its success, but that alone won’t make sub-par hardware appealing. Especially considering that Amazon’s streaming media services are generally U.S.-centric.

A fresh coat of paint on Android will help set the Fire apart, but repackaging an OS that’s already struggling to match Apple’s in terms of tablet success, and then putting it on hardware that’s basically a stripped down PlayBook isn’t a recipe for an Kindle-iPad killer.

The Kindle Fire could admittedly do well; it’s a very portable device with a smart UI that provides access to an extensive ecosystem, and I fully expect it to give the Nook Color a run for its money, or even bury that device. But what it won’t do is knock the iPad off its pedestal, not when it feels like yet another Android tablet rushed to market in an attempt to stem the tide of users to Apple’s ecosystem.

  1. Don’t really agree with this.

    Most people don’t care about specs (although it is dual core, and how many people use the camera on the iPad?), they care about UI and features. This offers most of what an iPad does, but at half the cost.

    The iPad isn’t dead, of course, and Apple will still sell a lot of them. Amazon will also sell a lot of Fire’s, to different customers.

    I’m very impressed with the Fire. If I didn’t already have an iPad, I would probably get one.

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    1. Exactly.

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    2. Why do you find the Fire very impressive? Because of the content or because it costs only $199? I’m just curious since you use the term impressive. I would say it’s function is satisfactory, but hardly impressive.

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      1. I’m impressed by the amount of functionality for the price of the device.

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    3. This doesn’t come close to offering most of what an iPad does. But at less than half the price it does enough for most people. Consume media, email, web, a few apps, even if they are crappy Android apps. Close enough at less than half the price. It just killed the other android tablets though. Either those companies will drop android or fork it themselves but they don’t have the content amazon has.

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    4. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      It doesn’t even offer 1% of what an iPad offers. It does not have 3G, which is on half of all iPads, and it does not run PC apps, which is iPad’s primary feature. It does not have multitouch, which is often what sells the device.

      > I’m very impressed with the Fire. If I didn’t already have
      > an iPad, I would probably get one.

      You’re impressed, but you don’t want one? Great endorsement.

      I very much doubt Amazon expects any iPad users to replace their iPad with a Kindle Fire. They might hope iPad users also get a Kindle Fire, and I think many, many more will do that than give up their iPads.

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      1. > You’re impressed, but you don’t want one? Great endorsement.
        I didn’t say I don’t want one, but I don’t need two tablets, and there is nothing the Fire does that the iPad does not.

        Conversely, there isn’t a lot the iPad does that the Fire does not. For what I would use it for (videos and games for my daily commute, and sofa-surfing), the Fire would great.

        > It does not have multitouch
        Didn’t realise this, but that will harm many games.

        > I very much doubt Amazon expects any iPad users to
        > replace their iPad with a Kindle Fire.
        Exactly. This is aimed at first-time tablet buyers.

        (I also did not upgrade to iPad 2, but I was still impressed with it when I went to the Apple store and tried one.)

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      2. give the guy a break…jeeze its gonna meet most consumers needs-IPAD lovers get over it…this is gonna kick ass…Apple stock down 8 points in two days since the announcement..hmmm…

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      3. “It doesn’t even offer 1% of what an iPad offers.” Is that the same percentage for the 50% of iPads that don’t offer 3G? :) Where did you get “it doesn’t have multitouch?” Because it does. Are we above 1% yet? Where did you get “It doesn’t run PC apps?” Because it does. Are we above 1% yet? :) And how on earth did you write a post with so many errors?

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    5. Bah – no 3G – no buy. I would’ve picked it up in a flash if it had 3G. The whole point of a tablet is increased mobility. Whats the point otherwise?

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      1. I suspect 3G’s coming in the next year. Not too long to wait ;-)

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    6. For Amazon the strategy might be more clever then simply providing a cheaper tablet. After Amazon sells a few million of these in 2011 they’ll have a loyal folloiwng. A following wishing they could have just a few more features e.g. 3G, camera etc. Then Amazon comes out with Fire 2 Fire 3 etc . The initial low price is just a way to quickly get into the market.

      http://www.cordcutterguide.com/kindle-fire.html

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  2. A bit harsh in your assessment. I don’t think this is going to kill the ipad or anything like that, but not everyone wanted or could to plunk down $500 for an ipad. Instead of trashing the kindle fire, I think you can admit that a $200 tablet with these capabilities is going to be pretty attractive to a large segment of the population and sell millions. Of course the kindle fire will have limitations, but I think you are missing the bigger picture.

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    1. Exactly I do not need a camera or microphone nor want one with a tablet. I have a DroidX, laptop, PC etc. As a 50+ I find it hard to have “fun” with the DX even if it is a larger cell phone. I do not need my tablet to be a phone as I love my Driod but at my age it is too small to do the things I want a tablet for. I want something to take on outings etc that I can read ebooks, play games, stream videos and check e-mails. If I can get this for $200 you bet I will.

      NO multi touch what is this??
      7″ multi-touch display with IPS (in-plane switching) technology and anti-reflective treatment

      Glad there are such staunch IPad lovers but believe it or not – NOT EVERYONE actually wants a IPad!!! I do not NEED one nor ever planned on getting one, my simple desires are as stated above and why pay $500 or $700 for a Zoom to get it. If you already have Amazon Prime you get streaming video. For people not looking for much more then what I am, this is definately affordable.

      So yes I have put in my pre-order and look forward to November!!

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  3. He’s not just an analyst… he’s a shareholder

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    1. hmm. This article is an embarrassment to GigaOM.

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  4. Pundits said the iPad was crippled when it was first introduced and maybe in some ways it was when compared to a Windows netbook or notebook computer. However, this Fire tablet is crippled even when compared to the average tablet. However… Wall Street and investors are very happy due to the low, low price and bundled content. Go figure. Jeff Bezos has played Wall Street’s game again and initially won for shareholders. For his sake, I sure hope the quality of the Fire tablet is up to par and the content is worth getting.

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    1. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      The thing is, 80% of iPad buyers bought iPad INSTEAD of a notebook PC. That doesn’t sound right if iPad is crippled compared to a notebook. And in fact, when you ask them why they bought an iPad instead of a notebook, they say, “because iPad does MORE.” PC tasks are only a small subset of what iPad does.

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  5. @andrewrhysjones I use my ipad2’s cameras very much…it’s the best FaceTime/Skype platform there is, and having friends living in different parts of the world, FT/S is the best way to keep in touch with them.

    As to the Fire…I think it’ll hit the Nook much more than the iPad…my major gripe with the Nook was the price…the fire hits it better…I think I may even buy one for Xmas for my wife so she’ll leave my iPad alone :)

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    1. Sure, the camera is very useful for some people. But I just believe the majority of people don’t use it.

      Some people won’t buy the Fire because they want a camera, but millions of people will still buy it because its not important to them.

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  6. How can you say this is no iPad competitor. It’s a device that delivers all kinds of media in a very user friendly efficient manner. From that point of view and it’s very competitive price, it’s definitely going to cut into iPad sales. I love my iPad but they have a winner here.

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    1. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      It is no iPad competitor because it does not sell in the same market, or even the same part of the store. It does not have the same use cases. It does not even have the same form factor. You cannot take the iPad out of a user’s hand and put a Kindle Fire in there and they go on about their day doing all the same things.

      iPad is a PC. It sells in the low-end $500 PC market, where it is murdering all comers. This quarter, not only will it be the best-selling PC, but iPad by itself will outsell all of HP, who were the #1 PC maker 2 quarters ago.

      Kindle Fire is a reader, a high-end reader. It’s like an iPod that is focused more on books than music. It sells at the same price point as iPods. It runs phone apps, like iPods.

      Amazon cannot physically make enough of these to cut into iPad sales. If it is a huge hit and they make them as fast as they can and sell them immediately, it will still not be a blip on the iPad radar. You are off by like an order of magnitude.

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      1. “iPad is a PC”.

        So does that make the iPod Touch a PC?
        Because they pretty much have exactly the features like apps, camera… (the iPad having only a few features more eg. 3G).
        The new Windows 8 OS on tablets is a different story.

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  7. The majority of your argument is based on the Fire having no 3G support. Pretty weak argument considering the vast majority of ipad users, including myself, own the wifi version. http://ipadmodo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/ebay-550.png

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    1. “vast majority of iPad users own the wifi version”
      In some alternate universe maybe. The split between WiFi & 3G iPads is about 50/50.

      What the Fire will do is kill other Android tablets plus RIM’s Playbook, very, very dead.

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    2. I have wifi but plan to get a 3G next. You live and learn.

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    3. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      So you are betting that the demand for 3G will go down? It’s not an important feature anymore? It’s being phased out?

      Look, you can put a motorcycle next to a car and say they compete with each other because they both enable you to get 60 miles down the road in an hour, but the reality is that people do not go shopping for a motorcycle and end up buying a car, or vice versa.

      iPad is a PC. It competes with other $500 PC’s in the low-end $500 PC market, and it is not only competing well with the other PC’s, it is MURDERING the other PC’s. People who are saying iPad is not a PC sound like raving lunatics. 80% of iPad buyers said they bought it instead of a notebook PC, and 10% of iPad buyers said it is the only PC they have ever owned. That is 9 out of 10 buyers who thought they were getting a PC, and iPad has 90% satisfaction so I guess they really did get a PC. If you know the technology, inside an iPad is a PC class core, a PC class app platform, a PC class screen, and an almost-PC class GPU … they put by far the biggest GPU ever into an ARM SoC. It’s sole function is: “run PC apps.” Apple removed the mouse interface from Keynote, put on touch, now it runs on iPad. Same with iMovie and other PC apps.

      Kindle Fire competes with iPod touch. One is book-heritage, and one is music-heritage, but Kindle now also does music, and iPod now also does books. They both sell with Wi-Fi only for about $200 and they both run phone apps and they both have cloud services and they can both do Web and email but neither of them is going to get you through a workday without a PC.

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  8. You have to be kidding. This is going to be a HUGE competitor to the iPad. Amazon’s built in reputation makes that $199 price irresistable to all but the most stalwart of Apple fans. What do most people do with their iPads? Email/browse/Facebook. What can and will they do with the Kindle Fire? Exactly the same – cheaper, and I’m sure Amazon’s preparing plenty of popular games to be played on Fire. It’s a big threat. I’d buy one if I didn’t have an iPad – and it will be a serious consideration when I think about a new one.

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    1. Exactly. From what I had been hearing this didn’t sound like a competitor but after watching some videos it certainly is. I pre-ordered one. I expect I will have an iPad and one of these for some time to
      come. The Kindle Fire can be left around the house to be used by wife and kids whenever they want. Not nearly the capabilities of an iPad but enough of what most people do to be a killer product.

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      1. I have zero interest in a tablet, but since it’s only $199 I said screw it and preordered one. I’ll pay a quarter to see two cats fuck.

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    2. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      That is just ridiculous. The device that you have in your mind right now that you are calling “Kindle Fire” is nothing like the actual device.

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      1. it does exactly everything the first ipad does

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  9. The primary criticism seems to be (1) it doesn’t do what the ipad does and (2) it doesn’t have 3G-a criticism made several times. I don’t see (2) as a big problem for a couple of reasons, if you live in a city. Most of the time, you have access to a wifi network or can easily get it. Moreover, it’s pretty easy to get a mobile hotspot for the times that you don’t, which can handle several wireless devices (ipad, kids’ laptops, etc). And this for $200.

    It’s not going to satisfy the apple fanboys, but I don’t think thats the target audience, any more than the kindle is an ipad substitute.

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    1. Very few of the millions of people and thousands of corporations who buy iPads are Apple “fanboys”.

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    2. I am an Apple Fanboy through and through and am an owner of an iPad myself. However, I do agree that this seems to be a bit biased. While reading it, I found it odd that the lack of 3G was mentioned so much.

      That said, I think there is a kernel of fair criticism with regards to 3G and that comes in the argument about on-board storage. With only 8GB and not being expandable, the 3G argument is relevant. I have tons of media on my iPad, but that’s because I’ve got 64GB on-board. If I were the heavy media consumer, I would prefer more storage, or better access to the cloud (presumably with 3G coverage) The fact that Amazon is pushing their cloud services so heavily also says that access to that very cloud show be made readily available when wi-fi isn’t around.

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      1. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, September 28, 2011

        I think this review is actually exactly right on. Consider how excited we should be if Apple introduces a new iPod a week from now. iPods and Kindles just aren’t that exciting. And neither one has anything at all to do with the PC market.

        The most important thing for people who buy this device to know is it is NOT an iPad. Too many reviewers are a making it sound like it is. Plus, a 7-inch screen sounds like 70% of a 10-inch screen, but it is not, it is 46%.

        It isn’t doing Amazon any favors if people buy Kindle Fire expecting it to be an iPad. That is like buying an iPod touch and expecting it to be an iPad. The Kindle Fire can stand on its own as a Kindle. My only complaints about the Kindle were lack of color and touch, and they fixed both those things. But it is not even remotely an iPad.

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    3. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      Google is 75% Macs. Apple fanboys!

      And the 50% of iPad buyers who have 3G … what were they thinking? Don’t they know that is totally unnecessary? Didn’t they notice they weren’t using it?

      I live in Silicon Valley and can’t get enough Wi-Fi networks to drop 3G.

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  10. This seems extremely biased,… The fire will be attractive to everyone who doesn’t want to spend $500 on an iPad
    The lack of camera is a bummer… Maybe v2.0

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    1. Hamranhansenhansen Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      How is it biased? What is untrue?

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